“She’s a quiet clapper in the bell of the prairie,
a girl who likes to be alone…
“The stiller she is, the more everything moves
in the immense vocabulary of being.”
- Margaret Hasse, Being Still (2001)
In mid-October, I went to visit J & R for Autumn in Asheville NC. Actually, they live in Marshall NC about 40 minutes into the mountains from the airport.
Winding through late summer hills in their final blaze of green, now following, now leading the shallow, fat French Broad River. We make a final crossing, leaving a rear-view mirror-full of Marshall.
Winding up through back public and private roads, waving to every car we pass. A sharp turn from this road into a driveway in need of more gravel, through some trees and around a corner into a high meadow. Welcome to Shangri-La. Later, our host stands at the far end of the porch, from which you feel like a sentry on look-out at a medieval castle at the top of the peak with a view of all who approach.
The driveway climbs toward the west, then abruptly right-turns into an open high meadow of natives grasses and wildflowers – an approach that can be overseen from these windows.
The driveway curves up the meadow and circles around to the east of the house. Here is the view of the top of the driveway, looking mostly east from the dining room.
We walked a path in these woods in the mist. The pines are unusual in that they were cultivated by a prior settler in this place. In America, anything over 100 years is ancient. Echoes from the Civil War seem to echo faintly in still in the air at twilight.
Later we walked through the open high meadow and heard the lowing of the cows on a nearby peak. We picked wildflowers, and the last of the cutting flowers. The next night it froze and killed the cutting garden. I was there at the exact moment the seasons changed.
The view from the house-wide covered porch facing west is of ranges of mountains, in different shades of purple The views near and far in every direction are more priceless than the clichéd punch line of a master card commercial. I walked part of my brother and his wife thirty-acre spread over the next few days.
We visited a nearby botanical garden and saw a row of trees burst into red flames. I cannot remember their name, but their beauty was unforgettable.
We drove the Blue Ridge Parkway and back into Marshall and saw the sun set from the Grove Park Inn.
Once in the “Historic” Grove Park Inn, thoughts drifted to the past. The hotel is about 100 years old and filled with relics reminding us of our past.
Back home, walking the 30 acre spread with the proud farmer. Turning a path into hardwood, we stroll by a tumbledown barn made from chestnut wormwood.
We passed a crumbling outhouse with a crystal door knob, and a four-room house with peeling ancient wallpaper, a tree through the roof, and a lovely crumbling porch with an overgrown view.
A world-class organic vegetable garden maintained by a world-class professional horticulturist. You can imagine the delicious food because I was too busy eating it to take a picture before dinner.
Autumn seems to be the season to remember. We who cultivate our gardens store up the bounty of the harvest that is bred in our bones. We remember the long days of summer, storing memories to warm us through the long nights of winter.
This is the season of remembering. I felt close to many of those strangers, friends, family members who are no longer here to see Autumn. We talked about friends and families who have died, who have moved on, who we barely had time to know. I loved the autumn colors, smells and sounds. I even enjoyed the gaudy fluorescent leaves and brazen purple berry clusters of the beauty berry at Biltmore. It seems to childishly shout out that all autumn isn’t muted, sometimes it’s brazen and drinks a bottle of red wine each night before the fire.
We have come of middle age, those of us who met as children. We are our families’ middle generation. Our collective, beloved parents and grandparents are long gone, our children and their childrens’ futures seems impossibly far into the future. But this season, we try to build a bride of remembrance. There is an urge to pass along stories, legends, family jokes, and love.
I enjoyed autumn with close family members to recollect, remember, and, to revel in the memories. And to pass along some wisdom I heard the day I returned to parched San Diego. Something I’m sure my parents once said to me: Thoughts turn to things. Pick good ones.